Ranking the Seahawks’ position groups: Who’s No. 1?

Jul 3, 2024, 9:36 AM | Updated: 12:26 pm

Seattle Seahawks Devon Witherspoon Riq Woolen 2023 Arizona Cardinals...

Seattle Seahawks CBs Devon Witherspoon and Riq Woolen in a 2023 game against Arizona. (Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

(Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks and the rest of the NFL are currently on summer break, but don’t be fooled. The season is just around the corner.

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The Seahawks open training camp on July 24. Then they’ll kick off their first of three preseason games on Aug. 10. And a month after that, they officially begin the Mike Macdonald era with their Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos at Lumen Field.

With the season quickly approaching, here’s a ranking of Seattle’s position groups from strongest to weakest. Special teams wasn’t included on this list, as it’s difficult to evaluate the unit’s makeup at this stage of the offseason, especially with the new kickoff rules this year.

1. Wide receiver

The Seahawks should have one of the most talented receiving trios in the league with DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Metcalf has reached the 1,000-yard receiving mark in three of the past four seasons and ranks sixth in the NFL with 36 touchdown catches over that span. Lockett’s streak of four consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns ended last year, but he still finished 35th in receiving with 894 yards. And after a stellar spring, Jaxon Smith-Njigba looks primed for a second-year breakout in new offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb’s scheme.

Grubb had massive success at UW with a trio of elite NFL-bound receivers, so there’s great intrigue as to how his scheme could potentially unlock even more success for the Seahawks’ top three wideouts. Behind them, former undrafted free agent Jake Bobo looks to build on a surprising rookie season.

2. Interior defensive line

This might be the most fascinating position group on the team, given the combination of talent, depth and a cutting-edge scheme under new head coach and defensive guru Mike Macdonald. Leonard Williams had four sacks in 10 games with Seattle last year after being acquired in a midseason trade. Jarran Reed is coming off a seven-sack campaign. First-round pick Byron Murphy II, the second defensive player off the board in April’s draft, is a potential game-wreaking force in the middle. Dre’Mont Jones looks regain the type of production he had in Denver after an underwhelming first season in Seattle. Veteran free-agent signing Johnathan Hankins adds rotational depth and 2023 draft picks Mike Morris and Cameron Young have upside.

Macdonald is known for creatively moving players around up front and mixing up pressures with a shifting array of looks. Led by this group, he should have no shortage of talent to do so.

3. Cornerback

This is likely the deepest position group. It’s headlined by budding superstar Devon Witherspoon, who showcased his wide-ranging skill set with a sensational rookie campaign last year. The former No. 5 overall pick was Pro Football Focus’ sixth-highest-graded cornerback and made an impact all over the field, totaling 16 pass breakups, eight tackles for loss and three sacks. It’s not crazy to think he could be even better this season, given what a perfect match his versatility is for Macdonald’s scheme.

Riq Woolen, meanwhile, took a step back last year after tying for the NFL lead with six interceptions as a rookie in 2022. But with his unique combination of height and athleticism, Woolen is a prime candidate to rebound this fall. Tre Brown and Michael Jackson are both quality options outside for when Witherspoon slides into the nickel spot, as he’s expected to continue doing a lot in Macdonald’s defense. In addition, the Seahawks added to this already deep unit by drafting a pair of college teammates in Auburn corners Nehemiah Pritchett and D.J. James.

4. Running back

The Seahawks have a young and talented one-two punch at running back in Kenneth Walker III and Zach Charbonnet. Walker rushed for 1,955 yards and 4.4 yards per carry over his first two seasons, while showcasing big-time breakaway potential with three TDs of 60-plus yards. Charbonnet also flashed promise as the No. 2 back last year, running for 462 yards at 4.3 yards per clip in his rookie campaign. The two complement each other well, with Walker providing more explosiveness and Charbonnet serving as a bulldozer who can plow through defenders. Kenny McIntosh, a 2023 seventh-round pick who starred at Georgia, also has upside after missing most of last season with a knee injury.

5. Quarterback

Despite some speculation following the Seahawks’ trade for 23-year-old Sam Howell in March, there’s no quarterback battle in Seattle. Geno Smith took the first-team reps this spring and remains the undisputed QB1 heading into training camp. Smith had an exceptional season in 2022, when he led the NFL in completion percentage and finished seventh in ESPN’s QBR metric. Smith’s production declined a bit last year, but he still finished 14th in QBR, even while playing behind an offensive line that was decimated by injuries. He’s coming off a strong finish to last season, totaling 11 TD passes and just two interceptions over his final seven games. If the O-line play improves, Smith has the potential to return to his 2022 level of production, especially in Grubb’s new offense.

6. Edge/outside linebacker

Both this unit and the defense as a whole should receive a major boost from the return of Uchenna Nwosu, who had 9.5 sacks in 2022 before missing 11 games last season with a torn pectoral muscle. Before Nwosu’s injury, the Seahawks allowed 6.6 yards per pass attempt and 3.5 yards per carry. After his injury, those numbers ballooned to 7.7 yards per pass attempt and 5.0 yards per carry.

Boye Mafe showed big-time potential last year, recording a team-high nine sacks in a breakout second season. Former second-round pick Darrell Taylor could be an X-factor. He racked up 21.5 sacks over his first three pro seasons, but has struggled mightily against the run. Derick Hall, another former second-rounder, looks to bounce back from an underwhelming rookie year. Dre’Mont Jones also is expected to factor into the edge-rushing mix while moving along the line.

7. Safeties

The Seahawks will look very different at safety this fall after cutting three-time Pro Bowlers Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams to free up salary cap space. That duo is expected to be replaced by sixth-year pro Julian Love and eighth-year veteran Rayshawn Jenkins. Love is coming off a strong first season in Seattle, totaling four interceptions and 10 pass breakups while grading as PFF’s 23rd-best safety overall and its 11th-best safety in coverage. Love has played a variety of spots in the secondary over his NFL career, which should make him a good match for Macdonald’s versatile defensive scheme. Jenkins, who signed in free agency, brings quality experience after starting a combined 79 games over the past five seasons with the Chargers and Jaguars.

Free agent signee K’Von Wallace adds depth after starting 12 games with the Cardinals and Titans last year. Third-year pro Coby Bryant offers additional versatility, having spent most of his first two seasons as a slot cornerback before changing positions.

8. Tight end

It will be interesting to see if Grubb’s new scheme can unlock more from Noah Fant. Over his three seasons with Denver, the 2019 first-round pick averaged 635 receiving yards per year. But since coming to Seattle in the 2022 Russell Wilson trade, Fant has yet to reach the 500-yard mark. He had career lows last season, totaling just 32 catches for 414 yards and no TDs. However, he was still very effective on his limited targets, ranking third among all tight ends with 12.9 yards per catch.

Behind Fant, veteran backup Pharaoah Brown and fourth-round pick AJ Barner fill the void after Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson left in free agency. The Seahawks lost an elite run-blocker in Dissly, but Brown is also graded by PFF as one of the better run-blocking tight ends in the league.

9. Inside linebacker

This is another position that will look entirely different this fall. After franchise icon Bobby Wagner and former first-round pick Jordyn Brooks departed in free agency, the Seahawks signed free agents Jerome Baker and Tyrel Dodson to fill their spots. Baker started 82 games over the past six seasons for the Dolphins, while Dodson is set to be a full-time starter for the first time in his five-year career. Dodson made 10 starts for the Bills last season and finished as PFF’s highest-graded linebacker, despite playing just half of Buffalo’s defensive snaps. This year, he’ll look to prove that wasn’t a one-off.

The only reason this position group isn’t higher is due to the razor-thin depth behind Baker and Dodson, which is relevant because both players missed nearly the entire spring program with injuries. Baker and Dodson are both expected to be ready by training camp, but if they experience setbacks, the next three players on the depth chart are rookie fourth-round pick Tyrice Knight and former undrafted free agents Jon Rhattigan and Patrick O’Connell. Those three have just 19 combined defensive snaps of NFL experience.

10. Offensive line

Decimated by injuries last year, the offensive line rolled out 10 different starting combinations over the course of the season. The unit predictably struggled as a result, ranking 28th out of 32 teams in PFF’s pass block grading. Health remains a concern for right tackle Abraham Lucas, who missed 11 games last season with a knee injury and was sidelined this spring after undergoing knee surgery. His status might be the biggest X-factor on the team. There are plenty of question marks elsewhere along the line too. There’s a lot of youth inside, with second-year pro Olu Oluwatimi being the favorite at center and a three-man battle brewing at right guard between second-year Anthony Bradford, second-year McClendon Curtis and rookie third-round pick Christian Haynes. Veteran left guard Laken Tomlinson was a Pro Bowler for the 49ers in 2021, but is coming off two down years with the Jets. And at left tackle, 2022 top-10 pick Charles Cross hasn’t quite lived up to his lofty draft status. If Lucas stays healthy and a couple of others take a step forward, this group could significantly improve. But right now, there are a lot of uncertainties.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

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• Where does Seattle Seahawks’ D-line rank among rest of NFL?
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